Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other similar compounds
It’s not an unusual debate, but one that still has no final answer: Which is worse for your health, drinking or smoking marijuana?
While we still don’t really know the answer to the majority of the population, with both pros and cons, a study recently found out what the answer is for adolescents—and it is marijuana.
Researchers from the University of Montreal looked at 3,800 teenagers mostly around the age of 13, and found how frequently they used marijuana or drank alcohol over the course of four years. At that time, they tracked things such as the participants’ memory, their perceiving reasoning, shortcomings, and short-term memory by using cognitive computer tests.
The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that marijuana caused more harm to long-term adolescent’ cognitive abilities than alcohol .
“Cannabis causes cognitive impairment and delayed cognitive development in adolescents,” said Patricia Conrad, the lead author and professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal. “This study focuses on the neuropsychological effects of cannabis. We think it’s important because it is linked to how someone functions in life.”
The scary part of the study that besides causing damage to cognition, even when adolescents in the study stopped using marijuana, their knowledge didn’t get any better, which means that cannabis can have a lasting effect on the brain. And when you’re a teenager, that’s not a good thing.
Because, As a teenager, your brain is still developing through adolescence. In fact, it takes until you’re about 25, and sometimes into your 30s, to have a fully developed brain. Thus, it may be much more dangerous for someone with a developing brain to use marijuana than an adult.
“[Teenagers’] brains are still developing but cannabis is interfering with that,” Professor Conrad said. “They should delay their use of cannabis as long as they can.”
The results of the study isn’t anything too surprising. In fact, another recent meta analysis of studies published in JAMA Psychiatry revealed a similar finding: that young people who were using marijuana often received lower scores on tests that included using their memory, learning new information, and higher-level thinking that involves solving information processing problems, rather than those who didn’t use the drug.
This does not mean that teenagers should be disappointed with alcoholic beverages or it is certainly not good for them, for the same reasons that marijuana is not : a developing brain. In fact, those who start to drink before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who start drinking at the legal drinking age of 21, according to information form Foundation for a Drug-Free World.
In addition, research published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors revealed that teenagers who drank alcohol had more damaged nerve tissue in the brains than those who didn’t. The same drinkers looked worse in thinking and memory tests than those who didn’t.
“The adolescent brain is still undergoing several maturational processes that render it more vulnerable to some of the effects of substances,” reiterates Susan Tapert of the University of California, San Diego, who conducted that study.
Did you know that smoking, and drinking , can have such a long-lasting effect on the teen’s brain?